After a twelve year gap (which producers no doubt hope will be enough to erase all memories of the horrible House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute), writer/director Darin Scott attempts to re-boot the film series which began with 1990’s amusing if slight House Party. The re-boot, receiving a direct to video release under the “Warner Premiere” shingle, eschews any attempt at continuity with previous films, keeps the plot simple, focuses the action on the titular party, and even offers up a cameo by the original stars, rappers-turned-actors Christopher “Kid” Harris and Christopher “Play” Martin.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 35 Min.
Package Includes: DVD, UltraVioletStandard VIVA ECO-BOX DVD Case
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/23/2013
Directed by: Darin Scott
The Production Rating: 1.5/5
Starrring: Tequan Richmond, Zac Goodspeed, Rolonda Watts, Tristin Mays, Gary Anthony Williams, Kid & Play, Jacqui Achilleas, Julian Works, Ambrose Uren, Keith Powers, Alanka Craffert, and De Klerk Oelofse
House Party: Tonight’s the Night centers around an eventful evening in the life of two high school seniors. Chris (Richmond) is a bright student with good grades on track to attend a top notch college after graduation. Chris’ best friend Dylan (Goodspeed) has considerably fewer options for his future and dreams of the two of them breaking into the music business as a rap duo. When Chris’ parents (Williams and Achilleas) are called out of town for an unexpected funeral, Dylan recognizes a golden opportunity to host a party at Chris’ house at which they can show off their rhyme and dance skills for a music executive who is passing through town. Chris goes along with the plan, partly to appease his friend, and partly in hopes that he will be able to impress his long-time crush, Autumn Rose (Mays), who appears on the verge of breaking up with her two-timing jock boyfriend Quentin (Powers). Things quickly spin out of control when the guest list grows exponentially over social media resulting in a party with complications including feuding old and new school DJs, a self-styled “cougar” neighbor (Watts) intent on seducing Chris, and a mild-mannered heavy set introvert named “Precocious” who gets her property destroying freak on when she corners the nerd of her dreams (Oelofse).
This fifth entry in the House Party series is essentially just a pale shadow of the original film in the series, updating a very similar plot with a few modern touches (such as an electronic DJ who creates dubstep-style tracks). While the first film may not have had the most sophisticated of plots, it at least benefited from the well-honed chemistry and charisma of Kid ‘n Play, the menacing antagonists portrayed by Full Force, and the comic chops of Robin Harris and Martin Lawrence. Most of the cast of House Party: Tonight’s the Night come across as “sitcommy” recent graduates of Disney Channel acting school, which seems particularly odd given the R-rated dialog and situations throughout the film.
Of the cast, only Tequan Richmond as Chris and Gary Anthony Williams as his father, Melvin rise above the middling material with which they are saddled. Richmond displays a gift for comic nuance that is sorely lacking in most of the film. Williams takes some pretty terrible jokes, inclusive of an extended monologue exhausting the comic possibilities of the fact that the last name Johnson is also a slang term for “penis”, and sells them so hard that they actually kind of work. Even when he succeeds, anyone familiar with the first film is likely to compare him unfavorably to Robin Harris’ hilarious “Pop”. Poor Rolonda Watts gives it her all in a broadly grotesque role as a predatory middle aged woman pursuing her eighteen year old neighbor, but if it is even possible to mine humor out of a middle aged woman trying to date rape a teenager, “broadly grotesque” is clearly not the way to go about it. I do not pin this failure on Watts so much as a script that requires her to do the impossible.
As with the original film in the series, the highlights are the musical sequences including a dance battle where Richmond and Goodspeed even offer a brief homage to Kid ‘n Play’s signature kick step move. Despite energetic choreography and camera work, Richmond and Goodspeed do not have the skills and chemistry of their predecessors. The next best sequence is a DJ Battle which involves “DJ Bootytime’s” (Works) old school vinyl mixing and scratching trading off against “DJ Hardcaps” (Uren) modern electronic beats. None of it is compelling enough to justify putting up with the series of well-worn cliches that comprise the rest of the film.
Fans of Kid ‘n Play who are excited to see them back in the fold after having been absent from the fourth installment are advised to temper their expectations. Despite being featured in the disc’s cover art, their cameo appearance is little more than a credit cookie. They appear more in the included “making of” featurette on this disc than they do in the film proper.
The 16:9 enhanced SD program is a solid downconversion of its digital video source. A healthy bitrate is maintained throughout, and digital compression artifacts are minimal to nonexistent. Scenes tend to be lit a bit on the bright side, giving the movie a look that is more reminiscent of TV productions than cinema.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The only available audio track is an English 384 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding. The mix is heavily tilted to the front hemisphere of the sound field, with surround channels used to provide light party ambience and occasional discrete elements of some, but not all, of the music tracks. Most disappointingly, the LFE track is not exploited to its full potential. It fails to deliver the room shaking bass that one would expect during the party scenes.
Audio Rating: 3/5
The following promos are presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio:
Special Features Rating: 1.5/5
- The Hangover Part III Home Video Trailer (2:27)
- The Amazing Burt Wonderstone Home Video Trailer (2:29)
- The Conjuring Theatrical Trailer (2:34)
- 42 Home Video Trailer (2:28)
- We’re the Millers Theatrical Trailer (2:34)
- Pacific Rim Theatrical Trailer (2:34)
House Party 5: Kickin’ It Old School (17:25) is an electronic press kit-style featurette covering topics inclusive of rebooting the 20 year old franchise, callbacks to the original film, the movie’s themes, Kid and Play, dancing, hip-hop music over the past 20 years, rap battles, and blending old and new hip-hop styles. On-camera interview comments are provided by Director Darin Scott, Zac Goodspeed (“Dylan”), Julian Works (“DJ Bootytime”), Keith Tyree Powers (“Quentin”), Producer Doug McHenry, The Outfit Composer Backhouse Mike, The Outfit Composer Eroc, Tequan Richmond (“Chris Johnson”), Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin, Choreographer Chuck Maldonado, and Tristin Mays (“Autumn Rose”).
Deleted Scenes (4:14) is a collection of six short scenes cit from the final film. They are presented as a continuous roll with no opportunity to select individual scenes from the disc menu, although they are separated by chapter stops. Brief descriptions follow:
- We get to see Chris' Mom's famous breakfast before he leaves the house. (:53)
- In his room, Chris looks at pictures on his tablet, lingering on Autumn's portrait.(:28)
- DJ Bootytime arrives at Chris' house. (:29)
- The picture of "Black Jesus" moved into Chris' room gives him some advice.(:39)
- Dylan and Chris discuss Autumn and condoms before Autumn interrupts them and talks to Chris. (1:24)
- Dylan gives a brief speech to the cleanup crew before telling them to get to work.(:18)
The disc also comes packaged with an access code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. This allows users to access a streaming version of the film on computers and certain tablets and mobile devices. It also allows viewers with appropriate desktop software to download a copy to their computer's hard drive. Multiple viewing options are available from online services such as Flixster, Vudu, and CinemaNow which allow redemption of Ultraviolet titles and/or linking to Ultraviolet accounts.
House Party: Tonight’s the NIght fails to reinvigorate the film series, coming off as little more than a pale imitation of the original movie. Viewers looking for a mildly amusing hip-hop-friendly teen comedy are advised to respond with regrets to this invitation and spin the original instead. This DTV release is presented on DVD with a technically sound rendering of its relatively unimaginative cinematography and sound mix. Extras are slight, inclusive of a moderately informative electronic press-kit style featurette and some not all that interesting deleted scenes.
Overall Rating: 1.5/5
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
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